Peltier Cooler Based Cloud Chamber


[Rich] shares with us his build of a Peltier cooler based cloud chamber. This nifty little tool allows him to see the paths that radioactive particles take through alcohol vapor. The system he has come up with is fairly cheap at roughly $100. He’s using Peltier coolers from computers and a cheap ATX power supply. You can see a more detailed instructable here.

[via Make]

22 thoughts on “Peltier Cooler Based Cloud Chamber

  1. Very cool. I’d like to see a few other ‘lightly’ radioactive things tested, like thoriated tungsten and lantern mantles.

    Good video as well. Short and to the point (right to the results!). No mumbling about ‘first I cut a hole int he plastic lid.. ‘


  2. @Jh, you need to understand that in ceramic glazes, there are alot of chemicals and minerals that can be potentially dangerous, however, because they are bound to the glaze as a media, they will not leach out unless disturbed (ie melted, broken etc) Make note on how the piece is actually a shard.
    The same thing can be said for most pigments actually.

  3. @blizzarddemon,

    Are you saying that the effects of eating food exposed to radioactive particles is harmless or that the particles only become release once the material breaks (e.g., into shards)?

  4. Really nice. I want to do exactly the same thing. I believe that it can even be improved. Firstly, a small heating in the sponge will lead to greater vapor formation. Secondly, the bottom plate should be metal for better heat conduction, and thirdly, a capillary refill of the sponge (simply have a wick) can be added, for continuous performance. But still, excellent work!

  5. @andrew
    to be at any real risk, you’d have to be ingesting the uranium, which wouldn’t be released simply by normal use of the dishware. the particles given off by it while outside the body are in this case not really dangerous. food that’s been hit by alpha and beta particles is not dangerous.

  6. I could never get peltier effect things to work that well.

    Even with a big heatsink and thermal paste, the “cold” side would seem to cool down by 10 celcius (If I was lucky), but the hot side would easily increase by 50 celcius.

    Basicly, my peltier effect tests showed that it does work, but it also generates LOADS of waste heat, and uses lots of power, which is a huge challenge to get out of the hot side and get rid of.

  7. @Oliver

    Peltiers usually have a dT of 70 degrees or so. If you got your hot side to +50, the cool side would get to -20 eventually.

    They actually transfer the most heat when the dT is zero, and the least when the dT is high, so if your cool plate isn’t insulated, it won’t get very cold. Also, if you’re planning to build a beer cooler, don’t let the cold plate get frosty because that kills the cooling power.

    One other thing though. They really don’t like AC. If you’ve got unregulated and unfiltered power, the peltier just gets hot.

  8. It’s always a laugh to see people freak out because of “radiation.” They are able to visualize something that people have told them is bad and now they’re afraid of that invisible something.

    People: You’re not only constantly bombarded by radiation – you EMIT radiation. Have you never wondered exactly why it is that night vision goggles can see people in infrared? It’s because the energy we perceive as heat has to go somewhere (in other words, eventually you get cold) and that heat radiates away from us in substantial amounts.

    Some kinds of high energy radiation are bad for humans. This doesn’t mean that ALL radiation harms people. Some things radiate photons, some radiate electrons, and some radiate protons and neutrons.

    Alpha particles (proton+neutron bundles) generally cannot hurt you (the primary form of radiation coming from the sources visualized in this post). In fact, they’re able to be stopped by a piece of paper. Your skin protects your body rather well from these particles, though it would be a bad idea (and potentially life threatening) if you were to EAT a source of alpha radiation.

    Beta particles (electrons) usually require a block of wood to stop them. They can penetrate your body and do harm to your tissue – usually in the form of burns, but also are capable of damaging your DNA.

    Gamma radiation is usually the highest energy radiation of all of these and the type that can pose the greatest threat to your health. Not all radioactive materials are gamma emitters and not all gamma emitters are dangerous.

    If some of you are going to freak out any time anyone mentions “radiation” then stop using your microwave (electron radiator), don’t turn on any lights (photon radiator), and throw out your smoke detectors (they’re nuclear – alpha and the rare gamma ray radiator).

    It’s a pretty safe bet that the americium sample depicted in the picture above came from a smoke detector.

  9. Somthing like this would perfect for an underfunded high school science class. The world needs more scientists (and a few steril high school kids to bring the teenage birth rate down!)

  10. “f some of you are going to freak out any time anyone mentions “radiation” then stop using your microwave (electron radiator)”

    No, electron radiation would be beta decay, which the microwave isn’t. Microwave is microwave, aka. light, but at a much lower frequency band below infrared.

    And the jury is still out on whether microwaves are harmful or not. Some sources suggest they are. Others find no correlation with GHz waves and things like cancer.

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